Art and Spirituality, the Love of Being Bold

Someone came in my studio a while ago and exclaimed, “it is rare for me to see artwork that I want to own. I usually find myself saying…I could do that! I don’t have artwork on my walls because I like looking at clean and empty space. The walls of my house are a blank canvas. However, when I saw Mary Jane Miller’s Icons, I wanted one “.  One student said, ” one of her classes changed me, on the inside. Icons are truly a window into another dimension, a heavenly dimension. When I look at Mary Jane’s work I am transported; I am filled with peace”.

People who do not understand assume that I am a religious fanatic. This is just not so which is why I write this post on orthodox icons explained.

Illustrating this point let me refer to an interview question Kelly Vandiver asked me.

“I asked Mary Jane about her unusual pieces and believe me when I say she is very creative and marches to her own drum. She mixes Art and Spirituality, and has the Love of Being Bold. Occasionally, she will paint a Buddha Icon, an icon of Christ the pantocrator as an alien,  paintings of the “Last Supper”, but with very different (from the traditional) settings like in a Middle Eastern silk tent, African tribes women and even Krishna with his disciples.”

1. Mary Jane, how were you first introduced to painting Icons?

More than twenty years ago I took an icon painting workshop as a kindness to a friend that organized a workshop and didn’t have enough people to pay the instructor. The instructor was an benedictine priest/orthodox iconographer. He taught the icon workshop with acrylics. The painting experience was of no consequence to me but his 15 minute lecture/slide show every morning for 5 days introduced and allowed me to fall in love with the imagery and history of icon painting as a language of prayer.

2. Talk a little about the spiritual aspects involved in painting an Icon?

The use of egg tempera is a spiritual experience by its very nature. Egg yolk, the raw potential for life and million year old dirt combine to create divine image. As basic and simple as it is, over time one begins to see the simplicity of Christ’s message. The practice has taught me one thing over and over. Humans are made of for living (symbolic egg yolk, potential for life) and flesh (symbolic dirt or dust of the earth you might say) and we are actually living walking icons of Christ consciousness.

3. How does it make you feel knowing you have successfully merged your career and your spirituality?


It’s challenging and humbling. I have been given the special gift of finding out what i love to do and merge it with a daily life activity. Pray and paint. I often look at my hands and wonder how can these hands belong to me?

4. Talk a little about what makes your Icons so unique?

Are they? I try to find myself and the spirit of god as I paint. The final image always falls slightly short. Short enough to want to try painting another icon, and so it goes week after week.

5. What do you hope people take away from viewing your Icons?

If they have one thought about the mystery of why are we here, I would consider the finished work a gift to the world and a good reason for me to keep working. I feel the world needs sacred art, after all, think of the thousands of tourist going everywhere around the globe to stand on sacred ground. It is expensive to travel. i can travel in an icon if i look at one long enough. The hope is for the work to make people stop and reflect for one minute each day. I suppose it is a lot to ask from a work of art, but i try.

6. What projects are you currently working on?

Recently published on, In Light of Women. My own journey with icons demonstrates how I looked for the answer to why there are so few women portrayed in this great tradition. But it also offers  a better way of answering the orthodox icons explained question that seems to be popping up everywhere.

The truth is that as icon painters, we are finding our voice around the globe, i want the christian church in general to sustain the debate until both men and women we are all human being in one God. The other popular book from years ago is the icon painting hand book, “Icon Painting Techniques”,
Both great in any collection or icon painting artists and those who love spirituality.

Art and Spirituality, the Love of Being Bold

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